Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is an outstanding cultural landscape along a major river which bears witness to an interchange of human values and to a harmonious development of interactions between human beings and their environment over two millennia. It is noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur and Tours, but in particular in its world-famous castles, such as the Château de Chambord.

The Loire Valley is an outstanding cultural landscape along a major river which bears witness to an interchange of human values and to a harmonious development of interactions between human beings and their environment over two millennia. It is noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur and Tours, but in particular in its world-famous castles, such as the Château de Chambord.

The basin of the River Loire occupies a huge area in central and western France, stretching from the southern part of the Massif Central to an estuary on the Atlantic coast. Some 200 km of the central part of the main river valley, stretching from Sully east of Orleans to the junction of the Loire and the Maine near Angers in the west. Essentially this is the ‘new’ Loire, for the river originally drained north-eastwards into the Paris basin. This length now lies in two regions, Centre and Pays de la Loire, and four departments. Along the Loire between Orléans and Angers, the valley is characterized by low cliffs of tufa and limestone and, often below one or more river terraces, there is a flood plain dissected by old channels. The valley has a long history of periodic catastrophic flooding, carefully recorded as stone-cut water levels at numerous places along it, and even today its inhabitants live perennially under threat of severe inundation. Much contemporary river management is concerned to minimize that risk.

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